Home Madison Matthew Braunginn: Just the facts about Citizen Dave and racist dog whistles

Matthew Braunginn: Just the facts about Citizen Dave and racist dog whistles


Note: Matthew Braunginn is the host of Madison365’s newest video show and podcast, Finding the Warmth of Our Sun.

In a recent column, former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz attacked the newly approved oversight of the Madison police department without offering discourse other than racist dog whistles. No new ideas, no real solutions, just “law-and-order” rhetoric, which does nothing but perpetuate the racist status quo. I believe it is time for the Isthmus to deplatform him and his no-longer-soft bigotry. 

No, this isn’t “cancel culture.” His livelihood isn’t being destroyed. I’m not asking for him to be locked up and I’m not saying he can’t state his views. But no one has a fundamental right to a platform like the one he has.

Three of his last four articles, and more going back further — during a time of protest, during a time when white supremacist violence has been accosted by militias and the US government across the United States, and specifically in Wisconsin — he spent more time denouncing those who fight for freedom than oppressors or racial oppression. 

In trying to talk about the cost of police oversight, he fails to mention the millions of dollars the city has spent in civil suits paying out to victims of police violence. Dismissing these victims because the police found themselves with no-wrong doing. And let’s be clear, the “outside investigation” in Wisconsin for police use of force, are still police investigating police. Implying the cost of oversight is too much, while the cost of death is acceptable. All while talking about a budget shortfall, while forgetting to mention that the current police budget is currently $86.7 million, about 30% of the cities annual operational budget. 

In “Just the facts,” he suggests Freedom Inc’s M. Adams is somehow wrong for calling for an end to the killing of Black people as a solution to broken windows caused by those protesting police violence. This is a simple cause and effect here; if there was no police violence, especially racist police violence, then there would be no protests, then there would be no potential for property damage. Instead, he decides that all Black people must condemn acts of property destruction in protest of death. 

Where is he taking responsibility as a white man for white violence in society? I have yet to see him write a series of articles suggesting white people need to get their collective act together to stop white supremacist violence, which has caused more deaths in the US since 9/11 than any other extremist group or ideology

Anti-racist protesters aren’t threatening civil war and acting on it, Dave. That is the right.

He talks of needing to have police arrest those that commit gun violence and not violence interruption. Well, first, Dave, police already arrest gun violence and community violence, it seems you’re calling for something which is already going on. Secondly, violence interruption isn’t a “long-run” strategy, it is an immediate and long-term one, one that is underfunded and more effective than a police focused one. Not to mention, ignoring the material conditions of Black America and that unemployment and unemployment being the biggest driver of crime, with Black Americans facing the largest rates of unemployment. 

He continues to put the burden of ending racial oppression on the oppressed, in suggesting they aren’t doing it right, and in suggesting well-meaning white folk like him would stop oppression if only the oppressed asked in a way that made him comfortable.

Just end the schtick and say you hate “uppity negroes,” Dave. How many Black people do you interact with regularly, Dave? And not just ones that make you feel comfortable. How many would truly call you a friend? 

The status quo brought us here. We’ve led peaceful protests for years. Many lobbied you for change when you had power. Many racial disparities got worse under your leadership. What the hell do you know about ending racism? What the hell do you know about not deepening racism in our society? 

Maybe spend less time attempting to be the patriarch to Black folk, and spend more time taking responsibility for your white folks who support a white supremacist President en masse, who are overlooking violent militias killing people, and threatening government officials with armed protests. Collect your people, Dave, because the violence you want to end has a root cause and it ain’t with Black folk. 

Or do you only wish to continue to not take responsibility and continue to tell Black folk they’re doing it wrong with a foot on our neck, and being shot seven times in the back? 

Last I checked, the only violence I see you condemning is that caused by a small number of Black folks, or those fighting to end racial oppression. Not police enacting violence with zero consequences. Not white supremacists. Not the US government and its wars of imperialism and occupation. Not the US in being the world’s largest arms dealer. Not the GOP who won’t condemn its supporters that cause violence, who in fact encourage and lift those folks up as heroes. No calls for the Madison Police Department or the city to investigate and condemn the “Friends of MPD” Facebook page, which had people calling to shoot and kill anti-racist protestors – after a white supremacist killed two people in Kenosha. You’d rather denounce property crimes as violence, and tell Black folk, and those who have been on the ground organizing to end gun violence, to work to end gun violence — the very thing they’ve already been doing.

Where are you, Dave, in the effort to end gun violence in Black neighborhoods? Still too scared to be in Black spaces? In fact, you seem to agree Tony Robinson should be dead since you cited nothing wrong was found by police investigating police. So it seems you’re okay with some types of violence.  

The opposite, or anti-racist word, would be one of understanding, one that sees these issues are ones larger than Black community “leaders” can respond to – it seems you see enough for them to be too large of a problem for cities to address, but why are they small enough for local Black leaders, with far fewer resources than the city to address? As they can’t end the poverty, education disparities, criminal justice disparities, that you, Dave helped inflict. The opposite would be one of understanding, where not necessarily having to agree with property destruction, where one understands its roots in violent racist oppression, and calling to end that instead. 

Take this as a free lesson. Next time I’ll send you an invoice for the service pointing out your racism, especially because it is people like you who perpetuated a world where my father worked himself half to death to end racism and provide you with free advisement which you didn’t take. You are the white moderate MLK Jr was talking about in his Letter from a Bermingham Jail, and it is time for you to go quietly into the night as the time for your mediocre voice is over.   

This opinion piece reflects the views of its author and not necessarily those of Madion365, its funders, board of directors or staff.